Community, Cottage Grove

Celebrating carousel success with a skydive

Destiny Duerst looks at the world in awe during her first skydiving adventure on Saturday. Photo provided

Spirits were high Saturday morning, as a handful of board members from The Friends of the Cottage Grove Carousel Committee (Carousel Friends) met up at the Creswell Airport for a much-anticipated adventure.
Over the past few years, board members and volunteers have worked fervently to restore a vintage 1929 carousel to be installed as a permanent fixture in Cottage Grove. Every horse, animal and chariot have been fixed up, freshly painted, and they’re ready to run. After nearly reaching their restoration goal, a few of the members decided to celebrate – at 10,000 feet above the Earth, parachutes in tow.
”No makeup, messy hair don’t care,” board member Destiny Duerst exclaimed, ”because I have a date with the sky.”
Duerst, along with Carousel Friends President Don Williams and members Marie Longfellow and Linda Sexton, arrived at the airport with big smiles and giddy anticipation. Originally four board members were scheduled to skydive, however, when the day arrived for the big jump, Duerst and Sexton were the ones up for the task. Williams and Longfellow were on hand to offer moral support.
When asked if he would be joining them, Williams laughed with a sly smile and said, ”Oh no! These days I heal too slow.”
Staff at Eugene Skydivers, diligent about upholding safety precautions, spent time with each diver, ensuring they knew the rules, procedures, and how the equipment functioned. As this was the first skydive for both members, they would be tandem jumping – attached to certified, experienced, staff skydivers. Instructor Mark Shoemaker explained that they would encounter a 120 mph freefall for 35 seconds, then the ripcord would be pulled pulled to deploy the parachute. They would then get to enjoy ”a very zen experience” he said, for a full 5 minutes of floating back down to the ground, then landing at a speed between 20-30 miles per hour.
After signing waivers of liability, Duerst and Sexton suited up and the anticipation set in.
”I’ve been wanting to do this since I was 24,” Sexton, who was also celebrating her birthday, expressed with satisfaction. ”This year, I decided I was going to do it.”
Each skydiver records a video message right before walking out to the runway. Duerst finished her brief interview and then realized she would have liked to record a message (”possible last words”) to her loved one, her dog Taquito. ”I’m so excited,” she giggled. ”I never get nervous until right before things happen.”
As the sun began to bake the airfield, one of the Eugene Skydivers’ two, tiny jump planes putted over to refuel and pack in the excited pair and their tandem partners. Duerst crammed into the back of the plane while Sexton rode by the door, a huge smile across her face as they taxied out to take flight. After takeoff, the plane can take 30 minutes to reach a safe altitude, slowly circling higher and higher. But then, high above the airport, two bright, colorful chutes opened as Williams and the rest of the small crowd waiting below began to cheer.
Slowly, the pair drifted and swayed in the breeze in slow, gentle sweeps, finally dropping safely into the landing zone.
As they arrived back at the hanger, sheer bliss radiated from both Duerst and Sexton.
When asked to describe what they experienced, Sexton simply said, ”Amazing,” with absolute joy. After putting thought into her answer, Duerst closed her eyes and whispered, ”Extravagant.”
Sexton said she hopes to inspire others. ”I’d like for people to come skydive and then visit the carousel. Visit the area.”
Still focused on the task at hand, the carousel itself now complete, the team is working to raise money to build a place to house and showcase it effectively. If their previous fundraising efforts, dedication to the carousel, and sheer bravery and optimism are any indication, Cottage Grove will be celebrating the opening of the restored Carousel in no time.



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